Passover Memories From The Old Country
In the following charming Passover memoir Chana a Holocaust survivor who grew up in a village near the famous city of Munkatch in Czechoslovakia, the fifth of 16 children shares her childhood memories of Passover and how it included giving to the needy. Sharing with those who have less is a tradition deeply ingrained in the Jewish nation.
Her father supported the family by running a flour mill powered not by electricity but by running water. With only three or four Jewish families living in the town, no minyan was available during the week. But for Shabbos, people from surrounding villages would gather in a private house in one of the villages to pray with a minyan.
When asked about her memories of Passover, Chana sighed. “Oy, my mother worked so hard! She began right after Purim by whitewashing the walls. Because the walls got sooty from the smoke of cooking, before every Passover, the women painted them. First they plastered the holes and then they painted. “They then poured boiling water on the chalk, that turned into paint. Afterwards, my mother kashered the kitchen, and all the women from the surrounding villages purchased flour from my father and baked matzos in our kitchen.”
There was no shortage of food, Chana explained. “We had huge quantities of potatoes, grown on our own land, which we stored in our cool cellar that was underground. During the winter, my family shechted our geese, and we saved the schmaltz (fat) for Passover. With the goose fat, my mother sauteed potatoes and onions. It was absolutely delicious. Eggs were plentiful; some we bought and some we got from our own chickens. All the dairy products, like yogurt, butter, and cheese were made by my mother from the cows we milked. A staple on Passover was rossel, a fermented soup made out of beets.”
When asked if they had any guests for the Seder, Chana said. “No, it was just our family,” she says. “But poor people used to come to our house, and my mother would give them food. One man, I remember, walked a very far distance to pick up food that my mother made for him. Money was very scarce but food was plentiful.”